I’ve just got back from a week spent up in York with my parents. I miss Yorkshire, and a few days roaming around the countryside in good weather made me realise just how much.
One of those days was spent at the RSPB site at Bempton Cliffs, on Yorkshire’s East coast. 300′ high chalk cliffs alive with seabirds, and cliff-top meadows full of life. It’s an incredible place and I really do recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area.
Apologies for not updating my blog for such a long time. I think once the Weird Field World book was printed, packaged, and mailed out to all the Kickstart backers I was a bit drained. I’d been so focused on the book for so long it was difficult to give anything else my attention really.
With a bit of distance I can start to give a bit more love to the blog and to my Patreon page that’s also been a bit neglected of late.
I thought I could start by letting you know what I have been filling my time with over the last few months.
It’s mainly been nature photography. I got a new camera back in October, which I blogged a little about here, and in March, I bought myself a new zoom lens for it. I’d grown increasingly frustrated by seeing animals and birds, but not being able to get a half decent photograph of them, so a zoom seemed a necessary addition. I went for the Fuji 70-300mm zoom, rather than the 100-400mm version, mainly because of the difference of almost £1k in price. I’ve been incredibly happy with it so far. What I didn’t really expect was that it would really change how I experienced the outdoors. Previously, if I was out for a walk I wouldn’t give a huge amount of attention to those things I couldn’t photograph – little birds skulking in bushes, or distant buzzards and kites circling. The new lens brought all those things close enough for me to identify and to get some decent photos, which made me massively more interested in them. Since getting the new lens in March, I’ve counted seeing 68 species of bird, and 13 of those were brand new to me. Even though I was walking in the same places mostly, and at the same times of day, I was noticing much, much more.
Besides taking photographs, I have managed to find time to get a few new products up on my online shop. If you enjoyed the Weird Field World book there are some matching stickers and prints available.
In March and April I worked with the UK fragrance company Thomas Clipper, on the packaging for their new men’s scent – Atlantic. This was a really enjoyable project to be part of. Here are a few images from the final packaging.
I’m going to make an effort to blog more regularly for the rest of the year. As always, if there’s something you’d like me to write about – let me know in the comments.
I’ve recently bought a new camera, a Fuji X-T4. It’s a more serious beast than my old Olympus Pen EP3. Having a better camera means I have to try and improve my photography skills, and not just rely on the auto settings. The auto settings do a reasonable job in most cases, but by using them on the Olympus, I wasn’t learning anything. Now I have the X-T4 I’m trying to at least shoot on aperture priority mode if not full manual. It’s fun. Not just the photography, but the learning a new skill. Wish I’d started it earlier in lockdown now.
I’m also making more of an effort to get out and about to go for walks and to take photos. It’s great having 1200 acres of royal park on my doorstep, but I kind of know it like the back of my hand now, so it’s well past time to explore new places.
Last Friday I visited Ockham Common, and today I went for a walk around Wisley Common. They are actually part of the same area and habitat, but divided by the A3 road from London to Portsmouth. It’s quite strange to be in the middle of a beautiful open heath or ancient woodland, and yet be only half a mile from one of Britain’s busiest roads. You can just about forget about the road noise once you get walking.
Today’s treats were: hundreds of incredible toadstools and fungi, including the fairytale-like Fly Agaric, which I’d never seen before, and a Scots Pine full of Crossbills, which was another first. Add that to the dozens of Siskins and Redpolls I saw last week at Ockham and it’s been a great time for me to tick things off. I can’t wait to visit both commons again over the different seasons. Maybe in summer I’ll be lucky enough to see the UK’s rarest reptile – the Sand Lizard, or one of its strangest birds – the Nightjar.
Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I’m just coming to the end of finishing off the book and that’s taken a lot of my time over the last few weeks. It’ll be going to print next week, so I should have some time to write a blog post to let you know what I’ve been up to over the summer.
PS. I got a new camera and I’ve spent lots of time in the woods
Usually if I wake up early I just lay there wishing I could go back to sleep. Today, at 5.15am, I decided to get up and go for a walk in the park. Proved to be a pretty marvellous idea as I got there before it became inundated with joggers and dog walkers.
The park – Bushy Park – is just a couple of minute’s walk from my house, and I feel very privileged to have it so close by. It’s a Royal Park, set up by Henry VIII for his hunting requirements and its oak trees were used to build ships for his naval fleet.
It’s a varied landscape, acid grasslands, acres of Yellow Meadow Ant anthills, open oak woodland – as well as lots of later ornamental landscaping put in place by Charles I and later monarchs. There are herds of Red and Fallow Deer, Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, and an abundance of other birds. This morning I watched a Sparrow Hawk circling and a male Kestrel perched on a branch with its prey. Getting out of bed early has really set me up for the day.
Winter seems to have finally arrived in the UK, nothing compared to the polar vortex currently plunging much of the US in to a deep freeze, and I managed to get myself out of bed early and in to my local park for a walk this morning. Bushy Park, one of the Royal Parks of London, is beautiful at any time of year but with a hard frost under clear skies it’s absolutely spectacular. These photos are taken with either my iPhone 8 or Olympus Pen.
I’ve been to both York (my home town) and Windsor in the last couple of weeks, both boasting more crenellations than you can shake a sword at. I always try to take plenty of photos when I’m visiting historic places, just to add to my reference folder. You never know when you might need to draw a castle.